Offsite Construction is Key to Affordable Housing Shortage, says Timber Specialist
Housing associations and local authorities could build new affordable housing faster by prioritising offsite construction, according to Alex Goodfellow, Group Managing Director at Stewart Milne Timber Systems.
The UK Government’s Affordable Homes Programme 2015-2018 encourages increased partnership working between local authorities, housing associations and private contractors to provide more affordable housing and maximise cost efficiencies in the construction of new homes.
According to the Government report, offsite construction and other forms of ‘construction innovation’ are key to adding value for providers through increasing speed of build, reducing waste and delivering more cost effectiveness overall.
However, Goodfellow believes this needs to be taken a step further and that aspects such as the lifecycle-cost benefits of offsite construction should be given more attention. He argues that local authorities and social housing providers could save money in the short- and long-term by offsite manufacturing of certain elements of new housing stock.
Goodfellow said: “Getting quality, affordable new homes out of the ground more quickly is a key priority for Government and in particular the social housing sector, and that can be a difficult balance to strike.
“Items such as timber systems and bathroom pods can be manufactured offsite – which means more efficient builds with lower ongoing costs. This would allow affordable housing providers to develop future-proof, sustainable housing stock quickly and cost effectively.”
He also advocates a ‘fabric first’ approach – where energy efficiency is built into the home, rather than enhanced by bolt-on technologies – as the most effective way of achieving these objectives.
Goodfellow said fabric first has a number of benefits, both during and after construction.
He said: “Homes which are intrinsically energy efficient – because they’ve been built with efficiency in mind – result in fewer repair bills and lower energy costs. Offsite construction also means the build process is a great deal quicker, so getting tenants in and rent payments established happens faster.
“Energy efficient homes are also unlikely to need expensive retrofits or alterations as they age, which is a significant benefit for affordable housing providers.”
The UK is currently facing a significant shortfall in housing supply, with research from property agents Savills recently suggesting that, in the south of England alone, 160,000 new homes are needed in the next five years.
In the affordable homes sector, charity and industry bodies are calling for the Government to increase house building substantially to address this.
Skanska invests $225m in Houston office project
Skanska is investing US$225m in an office development project, 1550 on the Green in Houston, with construction expected to begin in June and scheduled to be completed in 2024.
The construction contract is worth US$125M, which will be included in the Q2 order bookings. International law firm Norton Rose Fulbright has signed a 15-year lease for about 30 percent of the building.
Located at 1550 Lamar Street, adjacent to Discovery Green, in downtown Houston, Skanska plans to develop and build a 28-floor, 34,800 square meter office tower.
1550 on the Green will be the first part of a three-block master plan by Skanska, which will transform the parcels into a distinguished district known as Discovery West and consist of 3.5 acres of mixed-use development full of restaurants, retail and lush green space. The project will target LEED and WiredScore Platinum certifications.
Since 2009, Skanska has invested a total of US$2.8 billion in commercial and multi-family projects, creating more than 1 million square meters of sustainable and community focused developments in select U.S. markets. Skanska USA had sales of SEK66 billion in 2020 with 7,600 employees in its operations.
Skanska’s flagship London office has set the standard in sustainable workspaces by becoming the first in the UK to achieve WELL Platinum under the new v2 pilot scheme.
The accreditation from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) was awarded through the v2 pilot, the newest version of the WELL Building Standard. It looks at all building features and management processes – from air and water quality to lighting, acoustics, nutrition, thermal comfort and mental wellbeing. It’s widely recognised as the industry yardstick for measuring how workspaces can contribute to the wellbeing of occupants.
The offices – which span three floors of the newly developed 51 Moorgate – contain floor-to-ceiling windows for extensive natural light, dedicated wellbeing and quiet spaces, as well as stringent air and water quality monitoring, among a range of other features that have helped earn the standard.
The company has also been exploring drone flights for use in industrial environments.
Peter Cater, Development Manager, said it was invited to carry out trials because of its use and knowledge of drone capability. "The trials have benefited everyone involved: sees.ai get to test their equipment and remote use of the drones and we get access to accurate, real-time data on our construction activities which benefits us and our customer, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation."
“Projects like this – at the forefront of innovation – go to show what an exciting industry construction is to be involved in. We are always looking for innovative ways of working, ways to be more sustainable so we can find better solutions for our customers. These trials are just one small part of our digital transformation journey.”